Monday, 30 December -<link>
Yotsuya Rental Apartments, Tokyo, Japan

How I spent my Winter Vacation

A wonderful week playing Dark Age of Camelot on someone else's couch.

the players

We spent our Christmas vacation visiting Albion, Hibernia and Midgard. Holed up in Larry and Bettina's Tokyo rental apartment, side by side on the couch, marathon sessions in the online world of Dark Age of Camelot. It's great to have a beautiful apartment in the middle of Tokyo, it's great to have wireless broadband, it's great to enjoy companionable travel in virtual worlds.

It turned out to be a fantastic get-away: while many of our other friends travelled the world, and mostly spam sat in the email inbox, we practiced virtual tourism. Albion boasted castles, dark forests and moody swamps. Midgard was stark, snow-laden and gray. Hibernia was gayly forested, boasting middle-eastern architecture. Sunrises and sunsets, dramatic rain and mist - scenery and settings we commented on as we sat in our pajamas reaching for take-out food and complaining about the pain in our backs, wrists and rear ends.

We were adventuring, creating different characters and practicing their particular skills. Mostly we stalked the beaches and forests for beasties, to shoot, slash at, or cast spells upon. There were plenty of lonely times; we found mostly empty environments as game-players in the Americas and Europe favored sleep instead of adventuring. And sometimes we found silly people selfish and unwilling to play along properly. They struggled with the leisurely hunting and character development of a role-playing game and wished instead for a first-person shooter experience, all action and corpses up to their knees, like Quake. But it was our corpses they were playing with - single-player style doesn't go over well in a group game. Here an impetuous wanderer can bring too large a horde of monsters upon a small group and leave a pile of tombstones where we had been standing strong before. Through a chat interface in the midst of hack and slash sorcery and wandering, we were taught how to play politely and we in turn encouraged politesse on those who cared primarily for killing.

All the while Jane and I had each other: to play together as rogue and mage, to back a fighter up with a cleric, to share gold pieces, to gaze at another's new brown cloth robe or admire someone's prowess with a longbow. And in the best moments, we were joined by articulate role-players with a sense of humor. Trading lines tinged with ye olde lingo, we bantered about the world around us and formed friendships during hours of hunting spriggarns, boulderlings and water beetles.

sunrise over midgard
Sunrise, on the beach overlooking the ruins of ships in Midgard (Guinevere Server)

stoning out on stone henge
My armswoman in Albion (Percival server), staring off at Stone Henge as her compatriots prepare for battle nearby.

Stairs in Mithra Dungeon
A large party, sitting on the stairs, resting between battles with Malevolent Disciples in the Mithra dungeon. Always bantering, about hunting, character development, or anything in-game. Albion (Percival).

Gallows Humor
Our Albion party, laid flat by purple-level bandits. We lay there joking with each other until a powerful Paladin would arrive to resurrect us.

Dark Age of Camelot screenshots from my laptop. Not the nicest quality; I feel blessed that DAoC will run on my machine at all, while other games (notably NeverWinter Nights) are too advanced for the paltry graphics chips in this increasingly aged personal computer.

Thanks to our friends online, including the Shadow Watch Guild who made us feel very welcome.

We ate most from Soup Stock Tokyo. We did often finish our gaming sessions with an episode or three of AbFab. And we enjoyed having a third computer within reach to reference DAoC @ Allakhazam.

go ahead

If you care to give Dark Age of Camelot a try, you'll need a Windows PC with a graphics card that can display 3D graphics (if you bought your computer in the last two years, you're probably okay, check here if you're concerned). You can buy the game at a software store or online somewhere like The game costs $15, which includes one free month of online play. If you continue to play after that month, it will cost you around $10-15 per month to continue subscribing.

If you do get the game, be sure to put in a few hours in a single session, if you can get in the mood of travel and exploration. If you need help, ask; the in-game communications systems are worth using since nearly everything you need to know can be explained by a more-experienced player. If you make it there, drop me a message, and maybe we can go hunting together!

The rest of December 2002